Long Before the 'Proud Boys,' There Were the 'Glamour Boys'

Monday October 5, 2020

Chris Bryant,teh Labour MP, who chronicled the story of the Glamour Boys for his upcoming book
Chris Bryant,teh Labour MP, who chronicled the story of the Glamour Boys for his upcoming book  (Source:Facebook)

Before there were the Proud Boys, there was the Glamour Boys.

The two, though, have little in common. The Proud Boys are a homophobic, anti-Semitic, racist alt-right group that was elevated into the national conversation last week by President Donald Trump's unwillingness to condemn them. The Glamour Boys were a group of British MPs who in the mid-1930s raised the alarm about the racist and homophobic policies of Nazi Germany.

In an upcoming book by Chris Bryant, Labour MP for Rhondda, their impact on Britain's entry into World War II is revealed. Without the Glamour Boys efforts, Bryant maintains, "Britain would never have gone to war with Hitler, Churchill would never have become prime minister and Nazism would never have been defeated," he says in a report in The Guardian.

Bryant spent five years piecing together the stories of men whose sexuality and heroism has been excised from history until now, the Guardian continues. The men, who would later be sarcastically named "The Glamour Boys" by British PM Neville Chamberlain, frequently traveled to Berlin in the early 1930s, enjoying the sexual freedom of the Weimar Republic and the subsequent crackdown on the flourishing LGBT culture when Hitler came to power. What led them to action was 1934's Night of Long Knives, in which Hitler purged his military of homosexuals because he feared an uprising against him.

"From Jack Macnamara, the young Conservative MP for Chelmsford, and Ronnie Cartland, the younger brother of the novelist Barbara, to Victor Cazalet, a first world war hero, and Robert Bernays, a Liberal member of the national government, Bryant charts their alarm at Hitler's territorial ambitions, prompted by their frequent trips to Berlin, then considered the most sexually liberated place in the world," writes the Guardian.

"We like to think we know the story of how Britain went to war in 1939, but this part of the story has never been told," says Bryant. "And this hidden history matters because, for centuries, homosexual men have been portrayed as hedonistic, effeminate, limp-wristed, couldn't catch a ball and that sort of thing. It was assumed they would be physically and morally weak.

"But [for these men] their sexuality was an essential aspect of their bravery, and they showed the courage of their convictions by enlisting," he continues.

"I've been very careful in the book not to overstate what I can prove or go beyond what I can state with certainty," says Bryant. "But my working assumption has been that they had more sex than we know about.

"Churchill gets all the credit all the time because that's what he wrote. He was opposed to the policy of appeasement, and all the rest of it, but what nobody, I guess, would know is that half the time when Churchill and [Anthony] Eden were plotting with the rebels, roughly half the men in the room were 'queer'. At the time, we had the most strict laws we've ever had on homosexuality, and dozens and dozens of people were being arrested all the time and going to prison. These men had their phones tapped, they risked exposure, but they were made of stern stuff."

Britain did not relax its stringent anti-gay laws until 1967. Because of the secrecy of gay men in the 1930s, Bryant was afraid that he was going have to write the story as a novel. But he "was amazed at how much he discovered through persistent digging. The former priest says his interest was piqued by the 23 shields in the House of Commons commemorating MPs killed in action," writes The Guardian. "At least four of them, Bryant could confidently identify as 'queer' in the modern sense."

"The Glamour Boys" will be published on November 11, 2020. by the British publishing house Bloomsbury. For more information, follow this link.

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